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Hate-fueled violence: Documenting Hate’s catalogue of incidents captures the seeming ordinariness of many of them

Joe Sexton, ProPublica | 8/3/2017, 6 a.m.

The accounts marshaled by the Documenting Hate coalition suggest the same is true in the U.S. Amid the hundreds upon hundreds of news reports of crimes and insults and threats we’ve collected, there’s an everyman quality to the accused. While the black man killed in New York was allegedly slain by a consumer of white supremacy propaganda, the immigrant shot to death in Kansas City was allegedly killed by an unremarkable suspect, a man who had worked menial jobs across his life and, according to some associates, been in a spiral of drinking and depression for months.

The kinds of suspects implicated in the events of July 19 — a teen, a somewhat bumbling young man who managed to shoot himself in the course of trying to kill an auto parts worker — turn up on other days, in other crime reports. Two college students in Berkeley, California, were charged on July 18 with spray-painting racist graffiti. A man in Oregon was arrested after swearing at and harassing a Muslim women over a 20-block span, pretending to shoot a gun and screaming at her to leave the country and remove her headdress. The man, in tears, later said his “stupidity” had got the best of him.

The news reports collected as part of the Documenting Hate project include more than just crimes. The project also tracks news accounts dealing with reports on things such as hate crime statistics and calls for new hate crimes legislation. This month, for instance, there was the formal release of a Center on Islamic-American Relations report on anti-Muslim crimes, one that showed a huge spike over the last six months, a 91 percent rise in reported incidents over the same period last year.

Also included, though, are reports of steps being taken to combat the crimes and limit their incidence and damage — committees formed, outreach initiated. This month in Montgomery, Alabama, several organizations joined to run what they called “bystander intervention training,” meant to encourage people to act when witnessing the harassment of people because of their race or religion. In Anne Arundel, Maryland, there was a protest on the courthouse steps organized in part by the NAACP to highlight a recent case of a noose being hung in a local middle school.

And in Washington D.C., there was a conference on hate crimes run by the Department of Justice overseen by Jeff Sessions. Should the news of July 19 — Trump’s first salvo in what seems to many to be a bid to drive Sessions from office — result in a new attorney general, one of Sessions’ final acts will have been an impassioned promise to fight hate crimes.